Living his dream

Notable Law School alumnus: James K. Lee, ’92 J.D., managing partner at the Seoul office of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm with 14 offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia

Academic path: Lee was born in South Korea and lived there until he was 9, when his family moved to Michigan. When it came time to apply to law school, he wanted a strong international curriculum and a strong clinic program—both of which are strengths of the University of Minnesota Law School.

His career goal: “It was always my dream to someday establish an office in Seoul on behalf of a major American international law firm,” he says. That dream came true in 2015, when he launched the Seoul office of White & Case as managing partner, and in 2019, when he established the Seoul office of Arnold & Porter, also as managing partner. Before that, he practiced law in Los Angeles for 20 years.

On working across cultures: “For some Korean clients, the litigation experience in the U.S. may be familiar, but to many, it is not. As a trial lawyer, I act as a cultural bridge for clients in helping them understand the judicial process in the United States.”

Life lessons from the Law School: Lee says the Law School fostered a collegial and collaborative mindset, which he’s found essential in working at a large law firm.

Why he chooses to give back: “It’s important to support talented students who come to the school from diverse backgrounds,” says Lee, who received scholarships while attending the Law School and recently made a generous gift to support today’s students. “I want to help it continue to be a highly ranked, reputable school.”

(Photo: James Lee enjoying a dinner in Seoul with Timothy Wolf, director of international development at the University of Minnesota Foundation)

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